UK scholars, AJA USA condemn Modi govt for charging students, activists under draconian laws

London / New York / Brussels: A group of 90 scholars based in the United Kingdom have issued a statement condemning the brutal crackdown on dissent and protests during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Narendra Modi government, they have said, has launched a “witch-hunt” against students and activists.

In, particular, the group has referred to charges filed against Umar Khalid, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, who were involved in the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, and now face charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The signatories include scholars from the London School of Economics, Oxford University, Cambridge University and other well-known UK varieties.

“We condemn the brutal crackdown on dissent and protest which has accompanied India’s Covid-19 lockdown. The Modi government has launched a witch-hunt of students and activists and is charging them under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Among those charged are Umar Khalid, former JNU student leader, and Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar of the Jamia Coordinating Committee (JCC) linked to Jamia Millia University in Delhi. Their real ‘crime’ is that they participated in the massive, peaceful pre-lockdown protests and sit-ins against new laws and procedures that alter the secular basis of Indian citizenship, effectively excluding Muslims and violating India’s Constitution. These changes are seen by many in India, across religious and regional divisions, as the first step towards ethnic cleansing. Absurdly, those charged have been accused of instigating the February ‘riots’ in northeast Delhi, which have been widely recognised as a state-sponsored pogrom against Muslims.
In the days after the lockdown, in the face of violence from the police, the JCC had been involved in providing relief measures to daily wage labourers who are among the millions left without food or money under India’s unplanned lockdown.

Safoora Zargar is pregnant and therefore vulnerable to Covid-19. Shockingly, she has been incarcerated in Delhi’s overcrowded Tihar Jail.

We support the internet campaign by students and academics across India to protest against these fabricated charges and urge the Indian government to immediately drop charges against Zargar, Haider, Shifa Ur Rehman, and Khalid.”


Professor Barbara Harriss-White (Oxford University)
Professor Katy Gardner (London School of Economics)
Professor Shirin M. Rai (University of Warwick)
Professor Shakuntala Banaji (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Dr Lotika Singha (University of Wolverhampton)
Dr Kalpana Wilson (Birkbeck, University of London)
Dr Priyamvada Gopal (University of Cambridge)
Emeritus Professor Gautamkumar Appa (London School of Economics)
Professor Pritam Singh (University of Oxford)
Professor Meena Dhanda (University of Wolverhampton)
Professor Jude Howell (London School of Economics)
Professor Naila Kabeer (London School of Economics)
Professor James Putzel (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Professor Robert H. Wade (London School of Economics)
Professor James Manor (University of London)
Professor Gilbert Achcar (SOAS University of London)
Professor Rosie Thomas (University of Westminster)
Professor Phiroze Vasunia (University College London)
Emeritus Professor Chris Roberts (University of Manchester)
Professor Valentina Vitali (University of East London)
Professor Bob Brecher (University of Brighton)
Professor Ben Rogaly (University of Sussex)
Professor Gurminder K. Bhambra (University of Sussex)
Professor Katharine Adeney (University of Nottingham)
Professor Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee (Warwick University)
Emeritus Professor John Harriss (Simon Fraser University)
Professor Dev Gangjee (University of Oxford)
Professor Virinder S Kalra (University of Warwick)
Professor Neve Gordon (Queen Mary University of London)
Amrit Wilson (Writer)
Dr Owen Holland (University College London)
Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins (University of Warwick)
Dr Rajesh Patel (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Dr Nisha Kapoor (University of Warwick)
Dr Hugo Gorringe (University of Edinburgh)
Nikita Azad (Oxford University)
Shruti Iyer (Oxford University)
Dr Romola Sanyal (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Shela Sheikh (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Dr Kaveri Qureshi (University of Edinburgh)
Dr Sahil K Warsi, Independent Anthropologist
Dr Neeraja Sankaran (University of Leeds)
Dr Helen Pritchard, Goldsmiths University of London
Christopher Finnigan (London School of Economics)
Dr Mukulika Banerjee (London School of Economics)
Savitri Hensman (King’s College London)
Dr Nitasha Kaul (academic and novelist, University of Westminster)
Ludek Stavinoha (University of East Anglia)
Sumeya Loonat (De Montfort University)
Dr Melanie Crofts (De Montfort University)
Dr Anik Nandi (Queen’s University of Belfast)
Dr Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS University of London)
Shreya Sinha (University of Cambridge)
Dr Kenneth Bo Nielsen (University of Oslo)
Dr Graham Smith (University of Manchester)
Dr Anandi Ramamurthy (Sheffield Hallam University)
Dr Laila Kadiwal (University College London)
Dr Angus McNelly (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Ashvin Devasundaram (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Sharri Plonski (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Alpa Shah (London School of Economics)
Dr Bibhas Saha (Durham University)
Dr Thomas Cowan (University of Bergen and Visiting Research Fellow, University College London)
Dr Daniel Rycroft (University of East Anglia)
Dr Oliver Springate-Baginski (University of East Anglia)
Touseef Mir (University of East Anglia)
Dr Jonathan Pattenden (University of East Anglia)
Dr Paul Kelemen (University of Manchester)
Dr Subir Sinha (SOAS University of London)
Jens Lerche (SOAS University of London)
Dr Rahul Rao (SOAS University of London)
Dr Feyzi Ismail (SOAS University of London)
Aditi Tara Verma (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Chris Moffat (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr P Mani Das Gupta (Staffordshire University)
Dr Shalini Sharma (Keele University)
Dr Marsha Henry (London School of Economics)
Dr Mark Betz (King’s College London)
Dr Catherine Chiniara Charrett (University of Westminster)
Dr Kavita Ramakrishnan (University of East Anglia)
Dr Sumi Madhok (London School of Economics)
Annapurna Menon (University of Westminster)
Sana Naeem (Oxford University)
Dr Eleanor Newbigin (SOAS University of London)
Dr Jamie Forth (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Iqbal Singh Bhalla (Oxford University)
Dr Shiva Sikdar (Keele University)
Dr Tanzil Chowdhury (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Deana Heath (University of Liverpool)
Dr Naaz Rashid (University of Sussex)
Earlier, Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella group of progressive South Asian organizations in the United States, on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, condemned the Indian Government’s actions in bringing false criminal charges against hundreds of Muslim activists, students, and intellectuals and arresting many of them.

“These individuals are being targeted for challenging the deeply repressive Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) brought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government last December that triggered mass protests and convulsions across Indian society. Activists are also being victimized as for exposing the complicity of Mr. Modi’s Government in the massacre of dozens of Muslims in religious violence against Muslims carried out in the Indian capital, New Delhi, this February,” AJA’s statement reads.

AJA also blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for conducting a campaign of vendetta politics to persecute Muslims who have for months braved police brutalities at their street protests that were demanding a repeal of the CAA, which discriminates against Muslims in the grant of citizenship.

Alliance for Justice and Accountability
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“Their expression of dissent is now being labeled as “anti-national”, and the government’s treatment of Muslims betrays an appalling deterioration in human rights and religious freedom in India today. Mr. Modi’s Government is at the forefront of such human rights violations by providing total impunity to their perpetrators and protecting them from arrests and prosecution while targeting Muslim activists and victims,” it added.

Renowned Muslim intellectual, scholar and activist, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, who is currently the Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, a statutory body, is only the latest name in the long list of those being targeted by the Modi Government.

“Dr. Khan has been charged for exercising his right to free speech in a Facebook post in which he thanked the Government of Kuwait for expressing solidarity with Indian Muslims,” AJA said.

AJA has called for the immediate release of all arrestees include Safoora Zargar, a prominent youth activist and research scholar who is four months’ pregnant, and Gulifsha, also a female student activist, Shafi ur Rehman, Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association president, and Sharjeel Imam, a student activist, has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Meeran Hyder, a student at New Delhi’s Jamia Milia University.

“They were arrested for merely exercising their constitutional right to free speech, and for dissenting peacefully against the CAA and against Hindu nationalism,” AJA’s statement adds.

“Under the Modi administration, criticizing Hindu nationalism is being considered sedition and treason. The ongoing crackdown against Indian Muslims is a textbook case of repression of civil dissenters at the behest of the Hindu nationalist Modi government,” AJA said.